Burgos is renowned for it's morzilla, or black pudding to us English and blood pudding in other parts of the world, but for me I can only think of something darker than the richness of that delicacy and even more sinister than the blackness of my favourite food and that is a Black Hole.
And so I prepared for Cuba, an experience I was determined not to miss out on. Cuba has always been a fascination for me as a socialist. I was eight or nine at the time of the revolution and was in secondary school at the time of the missile crisis. Although that episode scared me to death, as it did many others, it was a trigger for me in the continued following of a romantic ideal of a small country defying the might of the US. I was also interested in how Cuba was changing, but I had no reference point to compare, so I did some reading in Miami Central library to recap my knowledge and understanding of past events in Cuban/US relations. While in Cuba many of the European visitors and myself, in the hostal I stayed in, discussed the Cuban situation and the rights and wrongs etc. of Cuban policies, laws and regulations, that impact on it's citizens. I am in no way a historian or a master in politics and I realised during those discussions, that small sampling of a few locals opinions could never give a true aspect of life there With that in mind, I will not espouse any views or opinions on the Cuban situation in this blog. Now back to the story............
As you know I came to the US with the intention of buying and riding a bike on either side of a trip over to Cuba. It was a far cry from my original intention to ride the coast of South America, but in an attempt to get there by the cheapest flights, found myself arriving in California with no cheaper alternative to Lima, than I had originally discovered from Europe.
Now I wouldn't call it a cluster f**k of events from there on in, but things never worked out as I intended, to say the least and while it was disappointing, it has been quite an experience with some downs and many ups, like meeting up with friends from back home and friends I had made on facebook, who insisted that I call in for a bed and a beer, in LA, Austin and Miami.
First stop in SF with Steve with a couple of the dogs on the beach. Really like this shot
This years ride was intended to be Cuba. The usual criteria of selecting a charity and raising funds for that organisation after checking where and how those funds are apportioned and also to ascertain what percentage of those funds actually finish at the projects rather than used to administer the organisation.
However it became clear that purchasing a motorcycle in Cuba was not allowed for foreigners, so decided to ride a bike around the coast of the USA. This entailed being in the US for one month purchasing a bike and returning after a visit to Cuba to do my routine checks before actually fund raising
I bought a bike in San Francisco, which required some work before I departed to Miami which unfortunately proved to be too much and would have left me little time to make the journey. Instead I drove a 'drive away' from Seattle to Miami and am now stationed near the airport ready for my departure.
I have identified a charity, http://americasrelief.org/# which is located in Miami
While it's mission statement is commendable, it's claims of the situation and it's influence in helping ordinary Cubans achieve a more open society are just that. There is no evidence to support these claims offered and I remain suspicious of whether it's sole aim is to undermine the island in a subversive manner.
My visit therefore will not be to see where the funds go, but to evaluate the situation there and see for myself on your behalf if the current situation is as portrayed by this organisation
I had three days with the Von Bargens before flying home for my daughters wedding and decided to use the time to be productive in building them a new garden. It proved to be the beginning of a bigger project down the line which will be revealed in later postings.
Martin is originally from Liverpool, but got curious over his German roots and finished up teaching biology in an international school near Kiel, north of Hamburg. After transferring to a school in Sandvika, west of Oslo, he met his partner Sarah a Canadian from Ontario and now have a two year old son of their own called Lasse.
The Von Bargens
Martin prides himself on his scouse, a dish that is common to Liverpool people and used to describe people like myself. The dish though was originally a Norwegian dish called Lapskaus and was a low cost meal that was probably brought to Liverpool by sailors and became popular with the lower incomes working class of the city.
I left the Titanic Hotel a new man and flew out to Spain to visit the Moto Almuerzo at La Cisterniga near Valladolid. The Cisterniga Roadsters are old friends from my first ride seven years ago and while I was excited to visit them all, I was disappointed not to be arriving on a bike of my own.
I had made a decision to try and locate another Derbi so that I would have a cheap transport and a shed full of spares if needed. The search was fruitless, but I enjoyed a wonderful couple of days with the gang there, before heading back home to England.
My ride stagnated due to an attempt to ride my classic triumph TRW 500 side valve throughout Europe. After the bike broke down on the first day out which resulted in a major modification, I changed to another old bike to get the ride started, but after a couple of weeks, it became clear that neither bike was appropriate to ride on my £20 a day budget.
A decision was made to downsize and I decided to sacrifice the Triumph which sold at break even after all the expenditure of parts and cosmetic work.
My ferry was booked and I had decided to do a 'walk on' rather than lose the money and visit the motoalmuerzo with Cistérniga Roadsters near Valladolid North of Madrid until I got a call from the 30 James Street Hotel in Liverpool, to tell me that I had won a night for two plus champagne gala dinner at their hotel.
I set off last week on the Triumph and got as far as I did a month ago when I broke down, with what I thought was a burnt out clutch. The real cause of the smoking engine was in fact the alternator which is now cinderised. I returned home, sorted the magneto out on the Cagiva and set off once more.
It was a blessing in disguise as it was my second attempt to call in on Mark Muirhead, but he has been having a few issues after moving house and it wasn't the best of times to visit. I instead headed for Ben Carley in Denbigh, in North Wales.
Well the ride got underway this week, after a stuttering start and now is the time to start writing about it.
I will start with my departure point, which is in Bradford. Saltaire to be precise which is a national heritage area. Saltaire is a model village built for the workers at Ebenezar Salts Carpet mill.
The estate is a compact estate of terrace houses and some bungalows.. While Ebenezar was an abstantee with no pubs on the estate, there is now a healthy variety of dinking holes and wine bars and cafes and the mill is home to the Hockney Gallery.
The Leeds Liverpool |Canal at Saltaire
IIt is a lovely part of the world both for living and for visiting with Ilkley Moor only two odd miles away and some of the worlds best curry houses nearby. We all remember the famous song - 'On Ilkley Moor bar t'at'. (On Ilkley Moor without the hat)
It is within easy reach of the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors and if that's not enough Bradford has a Sam Smiths pub where you can get the best stout in England for £2.20 I am fortunate that I live with a great couple who are actually older than me and I happen to live in a garden they paid me to install. Kevin Atlins and Inger who is of Danish descent are a great couple and Ingers Herring Xmas's are a delight. There is Herrings with mustard, herrings in curry, herrings in tomatoe, herrings in brine, herrings in herrings....
Kevin is an ex journalist who is a stroke victim the both of them spend their lives filling the cardboard recycling bin. The bottle recycle bin I manage to fill with Kevins help. They are very supportive and tolerant of my oily hands all over the kitchen and have sent me off with a wonderful donation to Project Mala
After struggling to sort out a mess of a clutch cover modification from previous owners I have reluctantly parked the Triumph while waiting for parts to be delivered and am instead setting off around the north west of England on my Cagiva SST 350 single cylinder two stroke. It is another old bike from 1980 but has an element of fun about it nonetheless.
My 2015 ride is fast approaching. The intention is to visit all FB friends who have subscribed to the event. The rules of the event are that if you subscribe to the event, I will pay you a visit for a drink and a chat. It will cost you £10/€. If you aren't there when I visit, it will cost you £/€20 and if I don't get there it will cost me £20. All proceeds to Project Mala The ride will be on my Triumph 500cc side valve twin. The engine is a 1955 and the frame is a 1960.
This years project is unique.
I hope to travel all of Europe and visit all my social network friends for the benefit of the Project I work for
If you wish me to call in on you for a beer or coffee let me know your location and phone number
Due to injuries and other commitments, during 2015, I will be looking to visit every facebook friend of mine in Europe on my 1955 Triumph 500cc side valve. As you know I ride for charity so everyone I visit will need to donate £10 to my charity Project Mala. If you can't meet me then I expect you to double it and if I can't get to you I will donate £20 to the cause. Let me know if you are available this year for a visit and a beer. I also do not look for assistance in this as regards accommodation or expenses, as I will be self funding and living in my own unique way. All money raised will go the project. I look forward to seeing you in 2015
I have just bought my new appealmobile. The Mark III version. It's not really new as you can see in the photograph, but hopefully this is the bike which will take me around the coast of the USA in 2016 as well as uncompleted coasts of Europe
You can see the bike here, but when it comes to the States it will have a new livery.
I have to say I am really excited, especially having missed a great deal of the summer with my injury.
I still have a lot of work to do with logistics of my other bikes in selling moving etc, but with the good help of a good friend of mine in Baltimore I am sure I can negotiate all obstacles in my path
First of all ride wise I still have a cycle expedition in India and the South East Asia ride to fulfil.